The number of rental sector tenants facing the threat of losing their home has surged to its highest level in more than a decade, Government figures show.
Some 47,220 landlord possession claims were recorded in county courts between January and March against tenants, which the report, released by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), said marks the biggest quarterly figure in records going back over 10 years.
The figures, which cover both private and public sector tenancies across England and Wales, show a stark contrast between the situation in the rental sector and the number of mortgage repossession claims being made against home owners in the courts, which at 12,704 in the first quarter of the year is at its lowest level in a decade.
Housing charity Shelter said it has seen evidence of tenants falling victim to "revenge evictions", after they had complained to their landlord, letting agent or council about a problem with their home that needed putting right, such as a leaking roof or mould and damp.
The charity said it is concerned about the lack of choice in the rental sector for families on limited incomes, with some parts of the country having already seen large increases in rental prices in recent years.
Strong increases in property values in recent months have also led some housing market experts to suggest that more landlords may be tempted to take advantage of home buyers' current willingness to pay close to or above asking prices by putting some of their property up for sale.
Landlord and mortgage possession claims are the first stage in a process that could eventually end in repossession. Actions are generally started because the those living in the home have failed to keep up with their rent or mortgage payments.
The report said there were 10,475 landlord repossessions by county court bailiffs between January and March 2014, marking the highest figure seen in the last five years.
The court procedure for taking back a property follows several stages. An order can be made by the court which can either require that a property is recovered by a specific date or the order can be suspended on the understanding that the defendant will comply with certain conditions.
If the defendant fails to leave their home by the date given or does not meet the terms of a suspended order, that order may be enforced by a warrant of possession, which gives the go-ahead for an eviction.
The property can then be repossessed by a county court bailiff.
Landlord possession claims were in general decline between 2002-2010. But between 2010 and 2013, the annual number shot up by more than one quarter (26%).
Around 170,450 landlord possession claims were made in 2013 and the report said the upward trend of claims in recent years coincides with an increase in the number of people renting.
Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: "Today's figures are proof that times are getting even tougher for generation rent. The steep rise in tenants threatened with eviction means that thousands of families will now be facing the trauma of losing their home.
"With the huge cost of private rents eating away at monthly budgets and years of stagnating wages, millions of families are finding themselves living on a financial knife-edge. And in life's lottery, it only takes one thing to tip a family over the edge and into a spiral that puts their home at risk.
"The Government needs to do more to make sure that ordinary families who fall on hard times are given the help they need to get back on their feet, without losing their home."
Shelter published a report last year in which it argued that the "volatile" rental market is putting the education and general wellbeing of children living in the sector at risk.
The figures were released as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) said it expects rental prices to increase by just under 2% across the next year.
Rics said tenant demand in the rental sector is seeing only "modest growth" as the Government's Help to Buy scheme, which helps people buy a home with a low deposit, has prompted the appetite to rent a property lose momentum.